Tag Archives: C-


Producers: Martin Heisler and Peter Veverka   Director: Bastian Günther   Screenplay: Bastian Günther   Cast: Carrie Preston, Joe Cole, Callie Hernandez, Jesse C. Boyd, Evan Henderson, Lynne Ashe, Lucy Faust, Sam Malone, Carl Palmer, Cory Scott Allen, Donna Duplantier, Clyde R. Jones, Susan McPhail, Jared Bankens, Alex Biglane, Amy Le, Lane Bronson, Shawn Sanz, Cullen Moss, Gail Cronauer, Douglas M. Griffin, David Welch, Chris Gann and Bill Callahan   Distributor: Gravitas Ventures

Grade: C-

If you’ve ever wondered about the mixture of tedium and exhaustion one must experience when participating in an endurance contest like the one depicted in S.R. Bindler’s fine 1997 documentary “Hands on a Hardbody”—in which entrants struggled to be the last person standing (while keeping a hand on a new truck) in order to win the vehicle—Bastian Günther’s film will give you a taste.  Not just because the picture portrays its fictional contestants as desperate (as also is the woman charged with putting the show on), but because it’s so gruelingly dull itself: it’s as though Günther and his collaborators (production designer Angela Gail Schroeder, cinematographer Michael Kotschi and editor Anne Fabini) want to make viewers pine for release as much as the characters do. 

The result is “Hands on a Hardbody” shot through with the bleakness of “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” but without that film’s piercing emotional urgency; like the contestants, it stands still while Sydney Pollack’s film, like its dancers, had to keep moving.  (In the initial half-hour, so many sequences, especially those shot from inside cars and trucks, are so distended that they threaten to bring things to a complete halt.)

As “One of These Days” depicts it, the contest, sponsored by a car dealership in an unnamed town (Bindler’s documentary was set in Longview, Texas; the movie was shot in Louisiana) as a promotional stunt, is organized as an annual event by Joan (Carrie Preston, doing her best to express the character’s repressed misery), who must put on a brave face despite having to cope with personal issues—her daughter has left for college in Florida, her mother Martha (Gail Cronauer) is suffering from dementia, and her lover Chis (Cullen Moss) has just broken up with her.  When she’s alone she’s dejected, but she must perk up and act jovial and ebullient to attract people to come watch the show (and maybe buy a car) while prodding the local TV station for coverage and urging the participants to keep their chins up.

The contestants are a motley lot, chosen at random from applications they submit at drop boxes.  Most aren’t characterized at any great depth; Günther is content to sketch them in a cursory fashion. But the large supporting cast manage to make do with relatively little.  So we have the likes of Peter (Cory Scott Allen), who always wears ear-buds and, irritatingly, constantly thumps on the trunk in time with his music; the goofy duo of Randy (Jared Bankens) and Pack (Alex Biglane), zonked-out twenty-somethings so dense they don’t even realize they can’t both win; and Derek (Evan Henderson), an intense ex-military man—among many others.  Despite the one-note quality of the depictions, some do stand out—like Ruthie (Lynne Ashe), the born-again Christian who takes to reading the Bible aloud, or Walter (Carl Palmer), the grumpy old man who wears a catheter so he won’t even need to take bathroom breaks. 

The focus, however, is on Kyle (Joe Cole, quietly intense), the clean-cut, friendly fellow who mans the take-out order window at a local fast-food place and, with wife Maria (Callie Hernandez) and a toddler to support, needs the truck to replace the car that’s just broken down.  He soldiers on despite the heat, the physical demands, and the nasty remarks of Kevin (Jesse C. Boyd), a sneering out-of-towner who needles him about his inadequacies as a man and a husband.  It’s Kyle whose unravelling the film follows over the course of days, though others, including Derek, sad-faced Peggy (Lucy Faust), and even Ruthie abandon their places beside the truck in the course of the long contest.

There are instances when the movie rouses itself into bursts of action, as when Peter is forcefully ejected, or Randy and Pack get into a brawl, or Walter collapses—and most importantly when Kyle becomes so furious over Kevin’s snide remarks that he physically attacks him.  Or does he?  For a moment it appears that the entire episode might simply be a nightmare, although an alternative explanation is quickly provided (though not followed up).

In the end it’s Kyle’s deterioration that becomes, in a very melodramatic fashion, the core of the film, leading even Joan to put an end to the contest, the pet project to which she’s devoted everything.  In its last half hour the script detours into a long coda, part disruption, part flashback and part hallucination, that some will find confounding.  By the time the truck takes center-stage, proving a surprisingly talkative sort (the voice provided by one Bill Callahan), the viewer might find his jaw involuntarily dropping, especially since the blinking of its headlights (the film’s only attempt at a special effect, save for the Google map-style track-and-pause scenes Kotschi employs to illustrate the town’s drab atmosphere) comes across as absurd rather than clever.  HAL 9000 this is not, even if the truck’s remarks are intended to make us wonder whether Kyle’s motives are quite as pure as they seem.

“One of These Days” obviously wants to say something profound about the psychological rot in today’s small-town, economically depressed America.  But its turgidity, penchant for excess and lack of depth undermine the effort.


Producers: Peter Brant and Sam Maydew    Director: Brit McAdams    Screenplay: Brit McAdams    Cast: Owen Wilson, Michaela Watkins, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ciara Renée, Lusia Strus, Stephen Root, Lucy Frewer, Elisabeth Henry, Michael Pemberton, Lynda Suarez, Ryan Czerwonko and Aidan T.K. Baker    Distributor: IFC Films

Grade: C-

There’s a thin line between droll and dopey, and “Paint” falls on the wrong side of it.  A tale of a misogynist boob set in a weirdly timeless world and told in utterly deadpan style, it stars Owen Wilson as a long-time fixture at a struggling PBS station confronted by the collapse of his TV career and challenges to his outdated lifestyle.  But the character isn’t treated with any kind of asperity; he’s portrayed as a bumbling nitwit rather than a crass throwback.  The film is presumably intended as some sort of satire, but if so it’s the kind with the sharpness of a butter knife rather than a scalpel or meat cleaver.

Wilson’s Carl Nargle is patterned, physically at least, after Bob Ross, whose soothingly vacuous program “The Joy of Painting” was a PBS staple from 1983 to 1994 and then in reruns.  Nargle has Ross’s poofy hairstyle, comfy retrograde country clothes, drowsy manner and propensity to drop penny-ante “deep” aphorisms, but otherwise the likeness is pretty superficial.  While Ross enjoyed a national audience, Nargle’s is limited to the signal range of the Burlington, Vermont, station where he’s been based for more than twenty years.  Though his work has come to consist of little more than a succession of mediocre paintings of Mount Mansfield, the state’s highest, versions of which he produces on the show over and over again, he retains some loyal fans, mostly elderly nursing home residents like wheelchair-bound Bridget (Elisabeth Henry) and barflies who never appear to leave their stools (Ryan Czerwonko and Aidan T.K. Baker).

Though station manager Tony (Stephen Root) is frantic over declining ratings and revenue shortfalls, Carl maintains a prima donna attitude beneath his ostensibly mellow persona, expecting everyone to cater to his expectations.  And despite his anachronistic hippie persona, somehow he remains a chick magnet, to use a phrase he might recognize, trapped in a 1970s time warp as he is (though the time of the story isn’t specified, cellphones are in use, one can call an Uber, and there are other vaguely contemporary references, though the station itself looks like an operation that couldn’t be much later than 1990, and digitally removing the pipe from Carl’s old show tapes is treated like a miracle).  He’s said to have had affairs with all the women at the station, including hard-bitten writer Beverly (Lusia Strus) and producer Wendy (Wendi McLendon-Covey), whom, along with other women, he’s treated to sessions on the sofa in the back of his vintage van, which he calls the Vantastic.  His current assistant Jenna (Lucy Frewer) is besotted with him and anxious to join them.

But Carl is still carrying a torch for Katherine (Michaela Watkins), the assistant station manager, with whom he had a romance long ago until she cheated on him.  Though she’s remained at the station since the breakup, she’s now contemplating leaving Burlington for a job in Albany.  She also conspires with Tony to try to raise the station’s ratings, first by suggesting to Carl that they double the length of his show (a scheme that hardly seems likely to achieve that aim), and then by scheduling another painting show with Ambrosia (Ciara Renée), a brash, cutting-edge type, to follow his.  She quickly comes to overshadow him; not only that, she takes up with Katherine.  Ultimately Carl is forced off air entirely, sent to teaching a university course in which the students prove so uninterested in him that they drop out one by one. 

But in its limp fashion, “Paint” can’t resist redeeming Nargle, explaining his “professional” decline as stemming from his long-unfulfilled desire to have one of his paintings exhibited in the local museum overseen by brusque Dr. Lenihan (Michael Pemberton).  He reconciles himself to his own limitations as an artist, and reconciles as well with Katherine, who apparently has been carrying a torch for him, too.                  

“Paint” has some fun with obvious targets—there’s a pledge drive sequence that takes aim at one of PBS’s most notorious practices, for example, and a bit about how the work of artists increases in value after they die (while enhancing the public appreciation of the most mediocre among them).  But even in these McAdams’ writing is flat, and his direction of them flatter.  That’s characteristic of the whole movie, which isn’t just slow but flaccid.

That’s due in some measure to Wilson’s performance, which is so laid-back and hesitant that at times Nargle seems nearly comatose.  Root, Strus and Renée inject some energy into the proceedings, but since there’s little consistency (or likability) to their characters—a capper involving Ambrosia and Beverly is especially odd—their efforts reek of desperation rather than commitment to the material.  As for the others, the waste of Watkins is especially disheartening. 

“Paint” is set in Vermont but was shot in New York—perhaps understandable, given its rather unflattering portrait of the denizens of the Green Mountain State’s largest city.  It’s not unattractive visually, with decent work from production designer Todd Jeffery, costumer Allison Pearce and cinematographer Patrick Cady.  The pacing is inordinately slow, but that seems due more to McAdams’ choices than editor Sofi Marshall’s.  Lyle Workman’s score is, appropriately, more workmanlike than inspired, though the pop songs of the 1970s that periodically pop up add a vibe that fits Nargle’s hippie persona.

McAdams’ script was, incidentally, included on the 2010 Black List of promising screenplays.  Now actually made by the writer himself, it provides another instance of the predictive fallibility of that tool.